Here come the girls! Alison May’s Christmas books really capture the spirit of the festive season and, for anyone who might have missed out when they were first issued, those lovely people at Choc Lit have now published all three in a collection – Christmas Kisses – available in paperback from all good book stockists and retailers. Click here to order from Amazon, where it can also be purchased for kindle.
I’ve made no secret of how much I loved this series (you’ll find all three reviews here) – three cleverly interlinked Christmas stories featuring three girls in desperate need of some Christmas spirit after their own personal ‘years from hell’.
Three girls, three kisses, three gorgeous Christmas stories…
Holly hates Christmas with a passion and can’t wait to escape it – but then the flight to her once-in-a-lifetime holiday destination is cancelled…
Cora has had the year from hell, and faces a bleak Christmas working in Golding’s department store – in the most unflattering reindeer costume imaginable…
Jessica is in denial after her husband’s betrayal, and can’t help but think back to when her life still seemed so full of hope and promise…
Three years from hell, three sets of broken dreams, three girls in desperate need of Christmas spirit.
Is the perfect Christmas kiss all it takes?
So first, it’s time to meet Holly, who isn’t a big fan of Christmas…
Holly Michelle Jolly smoothed down her bridesmaid dress and surveyed the room. Fairy lights – check. Christmas tree – check. Thick green garland around the bar – check. She shuddered. A wedding reception the week before Christmas. Michelle couldn’t remember precisely which circle of hell that was included in, but it was definitely up there on her list of personal horrors; the tinselled gaudiness of Christmas combined with the ridiculous expense of the wedding, and a London wedding at that. Michelle’s inner Yorkshire girl flinched when she remembered the price of the miniaturised fish and chip canapés.
Nonetheless, it was, she knew, Jess’s dream wedding. They’d spent many an evening over a glass of wine, in their tiny shared flat, planning this event. Even before Jess had met Patrick, her fantasy Christmas wedding had been clear in her mind. And that was the point, after all. It was Michelle’s job to make sure everything went perfectly. She swept her gaze across the room again. People seemed to be enjoying themselves. The mulled wine was proving a hit, and the guests were looking increasingly pink and full of cheer. Michelle shook her head, and looked around for her friend. Jess was ensconced with her new groom, both talking to the best man. Michelle’s lips pursed, as her gaze settled for a second.
Sean Munro was a friend of Patrick’s from years ago when they’d both lived in Edinburgh. Michelle had met him for the first time the day before the wedding, and was not impressed. He was all floppy hair and stupid grins. She’d tried to get him to sit down and go through the schedule for the day, and he’d tried to get her to put a whole mince pie in her mouth in one go. Michelle had had to explain, quite firmly, that they were here to make sure everything ran smoothly for the happy couple. They were not here to have fun. He hadn’t taken her seriously. She had found her carefully typed and bullet pointed list of things he needed to attend to ‘On The Day’ dropped by his chair after he left.
Michelle glanced at her watch. It was nearly eight. Evening canapés were supposed to be delivered punctually at 7.45p.m., but there wasn’t a white-shirted tray-bearer to be seen. Michelle sighed and set off to find someone to scold before Jess noticed the problem.
‘So am I supposed to dance with a bridesmaid or something? That’s a best man thing? Right?’
Sean Munro was leaning on the bar, booted and kilted, watching the guests shake, shimmy and sway as the band played Santa Baby for about the eighteenth time. He took a sip from his mulled wine and grinned at the bride. She shook her head.
‘Michelle’s not really the dancing sort.’
He looked around, finding himself hoping that he’d spot Jess’s bossy bridesmaid.
‘Where is she anyway? I’ve not had chance to talk to her.’
‘I’m not sure.’ Jess turned her head, expensively sculpted bridal hairstyle and all, to scan the room for her friend’s distinctive red hair. ‘Probably fixing something on my behalf.’
Sean smiled. ‘Well, I didn’t get these knees out for nothing. If I can’t dance with a bridesmaid, I’m dancing with the bride!’
He dragged her onto the dance floor, and spun her round and round. Innocent bydancers were scattered from their path, as Sean twirled his partner with more enthusiasm and gusto than expertise, until the groom decided it was time to rescue his new wife.
‘You’re gonna do someone a damage mate.’ Patrick detached Jess from his friend’s exertions. ‘Find your own girl to fling about the place.’
Jess took a second to regain her breath before joining in. ‘Quite right. I’m sure we can find you a nice girl somewhere amongst my friends.’
Patrick laughed. ‘This time next year. Back in your kilt. Doing one of your weird Scottish dances with your new bride?’
Sean felt his face tense but he didn’t reply beyond a small shake of his head. He could feel Patrick looking at him with customary concern. They’d been friends since what Sean still thought of as his ‘Lost Months’, living in Edinburgh straight after ‘The Breakup’, and Patrick remained on the lookout for a return to those moods, no matter how many times Sean pointed out that the best part of a decade had passed. The silence sat in the middle of the group for slightly longer than was comfortable.
Patrick turned to his bride. ‘So, how about a dance with me? A slower dance?’
Jess nodded, and the pair stepped back onto the floor. Sean watched them. He was actually enjoying the wedding. It was several orders of bridal magazine magnitude removed from his own tiny registry office affair. On the dance floor, the happy couple turned and swayed, wrapped in each other’s arms. There was something exclusive about their togetherness. You could see, right in that moment, that they only needed one another. Sean turned away.
Across the room something else caught his eye, and lifted his spirits. He walked over to the huge Christmas tree and appraised it. Not dropping much, but you’d expect that with a Nordmann fir. Nice shape. Tall. He wondered how much the hotel had paid for it. The decorations were corporate-classy. Not the right approach, in Sean’s opinion. Tree decorations should be personal and have stories attached to them. This was a bit too tidy for his liking. He glanced upwards and realised he was standing beneath a large sprig of mistletoe. His habitual good humour cooled a little. Such a waste.
He turned to walk back towards the dance floor.
And it happened.
A body crashed into his, as he turned without looking. He put out his hands to support the elusive non-dancing bridesmaid who was momentarily pressed against him. His fingers brushed against satin covering soft flesh. His nostrils were filled with the scent of the shampoo from her thick red hair. He blinked. Michelle rested against his body for a second and then staggered backwards, pushing her hand onto his chest for balance.
‘I’m sorry.’ She stood up straight. ‘Sorry.’
‘Are you Ok?’
‘I’m fine.’ She gestured vaguely towards the bar. ‘I have things to see to.’
He paused, but only for a second, before he jumped in. ‘But you owe me a kiss.’
Sean surprised himself. He looked at the woman in front of him again. Long wavy red hair, pale white skin, bright blue eyes.
Something unfamiliar started to stir in the back of his mind. He flicked his eyes upwards towards the beam, which supported the large sprig of mistletoe directly above them.
‘Who put that there?’ she said.
She was frowning. ‘There was only supposed to be mistletoe over Jess and Patrick’s seats at the top table.’
She glared at the offending decoration, as if the mistletoe had placed itself on the beam with the express purpose of annoying her.
‘What does it matter who put it there? It’s Christmas.’
‘It’s not Christmas for another three days.’
‘It’s near enough. We’re under the mistletoe. It’s probably bad luck or something not to kiss.’ He grinned at her, a soft playful grin that felt strange to him, like something from a different age.
‘Bad luck?’ He watched Michelle’s expression switch from irritation to incredulity. ‘What about all the horrid diseases you can catch from kissing?’
Bit harsh, Sean thought. ‘I don’t have any horrible diseases.’
She shook her head. ‘Well I might have. You barely know me.’
Sean grinned again. ‘I’ll take my chances. I don’t have a choice. We’re standing under mistletoe. We’d be breaking an important law of Christmas.’
‘There’s no such thing as a law of Christmas.’
‘Of course there is. There’s loads of things you have to do at Christmas.’ Sean sensed he wasn’t winning the argument. ‘Well maybe it’s not an actual law. Strong convention. We’d be breaking a strong convention of Christmas.’
‘Go on! Kiss him!’ Jess’s voice carried over the music from the edge of the dance floor. Michelle glared at her friend, and sighed.
‘Fine.’ She lifted her face and puckered her lips.
Sean bent his head to meet her. Without thinking he moved his hand towards her cheek as their lips edged closer. The scent of her skin, the sound of her breath, the warmth of her body, started to play on his senses. He leaned forward, just a fraction more. He was a moment away from her lips. Just one moment.
She jumped away from him at the sound. At the far side of the dance floor a waiter slipped and dropped a perfectly balanced tray of canapés to the floor. Michelle pointed in the direction of the unfortunate waiter. ‘I’d better go and …’
Sean watched her stride away. She was all the way across the room before he noticed that he was holding his breath. Slowly, he exhaled.
About the author
Alison was born and raised in North Yorkshire, but now lives in Worcester. She is a History graduate from the University of York and has a Creative Writing degree from the University of Birmingham. Alison has worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre manager, and is now a creative writing tutor and freelance trainer for charities and voluntary organisations.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and won their Elizabeth Goudge trophy in 2012 for her short story Feel the Fear which was published in the RNA’s 2014 anthology. Alison writes contemporary romantic comedies.